Expected Council Action
In December, the Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan. Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is also expected to brief on the Committee’s work. Consultations are expected to follow the briefing.
The mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expires on 15 March 2020.
Key Recent Developments
The overall level of political violence remains at lower levels than prior to the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) on 12 September 2018. However, slow implementation of the R-ARCSS has contributed to uncertainty around the peace process. Ethnic and intercommunal violence continues, as do sporadic clashes between government and opposition forces in some parts of the country. The human rights, humanitarian, food security and economic conditions in the country remain dire, with an enormous impact on civilians.
On 20 October, the Council conducted a one-day mission to Juba, South Sudan, which was co-led by the US (as penholder on South Sudan) and South Africa (as Council president for the month). The Council met with President Salva Kiir and other signatory parties and stakeholders of the R-ARCSS, including Riek Machar who apparently told the Council that he would not join a transitional government until security forces had been unified and called for a further extension of the pre-transitional period. The Council also received a briefing from UNMISS and a briefing on the humanitarian situation, and met with civil society organisations, including women’s groups. (See our What’s In Blue story of 21 October 2019.)
Ahead of its visiting mission, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on 8 October on the implementation of the R-ARCSS. Among other things, it calls on the parties to expedite the process of implementing key outstanding tasks; expresses concern at the dire humanitarian, human rights, and economic situation; and stresses that “actions which threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan may be subject to sanctions” under the relevant resolutions. (See our What’s In Blue story of 7 October 2019.)
On 6 November, the Council was briefed on South Sudan in consultations by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Special Representative for South Sudan and head of UNMISS David Shearer. Council members agreed on press elements expressing concern that during the 20 October visit to South Sudan the Council had not observed substantive progress on key elements of the R-ARCSS, and called for full implementation, clear benchmarks, the cessation of hostilities, and ceasefire agreements.
On 7 November, President Kiir and opposition leader Machar met in Entebbe, Uganda, and agreed to extend the pre-transitional period by a further 100 days, effective from 12 November, to enable critical outstanding pre-transitional tasks specified under the R-ARCSS to be completed. These include the cantonment and training of a unified army and agreement on the number and boundaries of states. According to the terms of the R-ARCSS, 12 May was to mark the end of the eight-month pre-transitional period and the start of the 36-month transitional period, with elections to be held 60 days before the end of the transitional period. In early May, the parties extended the deadline for the end of the pre-transitional period by six months, until 12 November.
On 10 November, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) adopted a communiqué that welcomed the 100-day extension; called on the IGAD Heads of State and Government to continue facilitating face-to-face meetings of the leadership of the parties; and emphasised the need to work on a roadmap and implementation plan to ensure the timely completion of pending pre-transitional tasks, among other things. It also directed the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais, to carry out several tasks, including to facilitate a meeting of the parties to the R-ARCSS to resolve the issue of the number of states and their boundaries, organise a leadership retreat for the leaders of the parties to the R-ARCSS for trust and confidence building as soon as possible, and closely monitor the progress of implementation of the critical pending tasks within the 100-day period. On 12 November, Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed IGAD’s communiqué and reaffirmed the “critical importance” of the role of IGAD and the AU in the political process, and the continued readiness of the UN to support their efforts.
On 14 November, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué on South Sudan that included welcoming the 100-day extension; calling on all parties, particularly President Kiir and Machar to “embrace dialogue with a view to deepening and instilling mutual trust and confidence”; and calling on Machar (who remains in Sudan) to consider relocating to Juba, as soon as possible. It also requests monthly briefings to the PSC on the situation in South Sudan until the end of the 100 day-period and decides that the PSC will undertake a field visit to South Sudan in February 2020.
On 22 November, Council members adopted a press statement which took note of the 100-day extension and expressed disappointment that the parties had not met the 12 November deadline. It also expressed support for IGAD’s work to establish a road map and implementation plan to ensure the timely completion of pending pre-transitional tasks, among other things. The last formal Council briefing by Shearer, on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan, was on 18 September. (See our What’s In Blue story of 17 September 2019.)
Ambassador Joanna Wronecka of Poland visited South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan from 6 to 15 October as chair of the Committee. On 18 November, the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee met with regard to the interim report of the Panel of Experts, transmitted on 20 November. The report states “the selective implementation of and inconsistent international support for the [R-ARCSS] have led to a dangerous stalemate.” It also found that the region has not consistently enforced the arms embargo or the asset freeze and travel ban on sanctioned individuals.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 16 September, during its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council received an oral update from the chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka, followed by an interactive dialogue. Sooka referred to the commission’s seventh field mission to South Sudan and the region from 19 to 24 August. She highlighted that “South Sudan’s political elites are…oblivious to the intense suffering of millions of their own people”. On 8 November, the commission released a statement following the agreement to extend the deadline for the formation of the national unity government by 100 days urging all parties “to work with renewed urgency to resolve the outstanding issues” adding that the “South Sudanese are desperate for peace so they can begin the task of rebuilding their lives and develop the potential of their country following years of conflict”.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how the Council can support the parties in South Sudan, as well as IGAD and other regional actors, in the implementation of the R-ARCSS given the continued delays in completing key tasks required and in light of the second extension to the deadline for the end of the pre-transitional period. An option would be to request IGAD Special Envoy Wais to regularly brief the Council on steps being taken by IGAD and how best the Council can support these. Council members could also consider imposing further targeted sanctions against those who undermine the process, as referred to in the presidential statement adopted on 8 October and the 22 November press statement.
Council members continue to follow the situation in South Sudan closely and support the roles played by IGAD and the region working towards a political resolution of the conflict. Council members recognise some progress since the signing of the R-ARCSS, in particular, the decrease in political violence. Following the Council’s mission to South Sudan, many Council members are particularly concerned over the commitment of the parties to fully implement the R-ARCSS and slow progress in implementing key tasks during the pre-transitional period. Members also remain concerned about the humanitarian situation and persistence of human rights violations and abuses.
There were divisions among Council members during negotiations for the presidential statement adopted on 8 October. Several members pushed for the inclusion of more positive language to what was initially proposed by the US. How to characterise the pace of the implementation of the R-ARCSS was particularly contentious in this regard. The initial draft circulated by the US expressed concern over the slow implementation of critical components of the R-ARCSS, “causing uncertainty around the peace process”. This was removed at the request of China, supported by some other members. There was also disagreement around language on women and human rights. The statement urges parties to continue taking steps to “promote the meaningful participation of women”. Russia broke silence seeking the removal of stronger language in the initial draft that had called on the parties “to ensure the full participation of women”, a request accommodated by the penholder. On human rights, the statement retained language from the initial draft emphasising the need to ensure accountability and end impunity for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. However, reference to the visit of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to the country, and ongoing violations and abuses that have been reported since the R-ARCSS was signed, were removed at the request of China.
The US is the penholder on South Sudan. Poland chairs the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee until the end of the year, after which incoming Council member Viet Nam is expected to chair the Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOUTH SUDAN
|Security Council Resolution|
|15 March 2019S/RES/2459||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNMISS for an additional year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|8 October 2019S/PRST/2019/11||This was a presidential statement focusing on the implementation of the R-ARCSS of 12 September 2018.|
|12 September 2019S/2019/741||This was the Secretary-General’s report on “future planning for the protection of civilians sites” in South Sudan, as requested in resolution 2459.|
|10 September 2019S/2019/722||This was the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on South Sudan.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|18 September 2019S/PV.8621||On 18 September, Special Representative for South Sudan and head of UNMISS David Shearer briefed the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the situation in South Sudan and the Secretary-General’s report on “future planning for the protection of civilians sites” in South Sudan, as requested in resolution 2459.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|22 November 2019SC/14033||This was a press statement on the 100-day extension of the pre-transitional period under the R-ARCSS.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|20 November 2019S/2019/897||This was the interim report of the Panel of Experts.|